Archives For Parenthood

The other day I was driving in my car and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want was playing. It is an iconic song from the Stones but it is also the memorable opening song played during the funeral procession in the movie, The Big Chill.

I remember my parents in the 1980s sharing how much that movie meant to them and how it captured their generation and its joys and struggles. My parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they would associate themselves with the Baby Boomer Generation but as the joke in the movie Field of Dreams went, they had two fifties and movies straight into the seventies. In other words, they didn’t fully associate themselves with the hippie movement yet they experienced the complexities of the Vietnam era. Like my parents, I have always felt like I was in a lost generation being born in 1978 and am often thrown in either the younger part of Generation X or older in Generation Y.

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Harper Lee said it best in the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Lee’s wisdom applies to how we feel about people of different generations. In my observations, it seems like the newest generation seems to be labeled as the most “selfish” when if we study history, each younger generation was judged in a similar way. For example, in life I have witnessed many people blame the Baby Boomer generation for their perceived lack of morals but as they are getting older, it has given us time to let history tell their story better. By giving them time, we are learning that they are a generation with great strengths and complexities and we can better understand their impact on the way we live today.

I believe we will be better people if we take time to learn about each other, which will minimize incomplete judgments. The past century has been defined by many things but one of them is the way movies can tell each generation’s story. I have compiled a helpful list of movies that best define each generation. The list is compiled from my personal observations, research and comparison of similar lists online and from polling friends. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list but my hope is for this to be a way to learn more about our generations through the art of movies.

I isolate three types of movies for each generation; cultural, comedy, and war. I want to know what makes people laugh, how they live and what they fight for. I have watched all of these movies and appreciate them uniquely for what they represent. I hope you will enjoy them too.

The Greatest Generation – The “G.I. Generation” or “WWII Generation” (1925-1939))

Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation – “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964

Generation X – The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979

Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991

Generation Z – The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present

Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?

The United States Golf Association (USGA) is running an amusing and compelling ad campaign focused on better pace of play on the golf course. These are some of the funniest ads to ever come out of the traditionally conservative organization. The commercials feature major golfers and celebrities like Tiger Woods, Anika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, Arnold Palmer, and Clint Eastwood.

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Here are a couple of ads from the campaign. To fully appreciate it, watch the inspiration from the campaign in the movie Caddyshack. The line was apparently thought up by Rodney Dangerfield and not in the script. It is hard to not play a round of golf and not hear this great line.

The campaign hit a personal note for me. It was two years ago the last time I played golf on a Saturday. The round took six hours not including the time it took me to drive to and from the course. Overall it was almost an eight-hour Saturday. Our foursome did have a good time but we ultimately wanted to play a normal four hour round and left very frustrated. If that is how golf is today, I can wait until my kids grow up until they take interest in the game and want to learn.

I miss golf and am thankful for playing it as a youngster through competitive play in high school and college. It was on the course where I first understood what perseverance was and how to conduct myself by the examples of other older gentlemen. I am still young as Rodney Dangerfield says so I have time to get back to the game. I am thankful because one can play golf until the day they die unlike soccer, basketball, football, or baseball.

I wish I could say that I’m spending every moment of time exactly how I like or how I am supposed to. There are plenty of noble demands from family, work, church, and friends but every weekend when I see golf on TV, there is something that stirs me to want to get out and play. I am reminded as I walk out the door with my family that we only have this time once so my old friend, the game of golf, I shall return.

Do you have a difficult time embracing the sports of your youth because of the time it takes to play? 

I was impressed with the 15 minute story on 60 Minutes this week about “Redshirt Students”. I became aware of this issue since having kids and if you do not know much about it, you can read a great article in Huffington Post. To summarize the issue, many parents are holding back their kids to start Kindergarten a year later. Why? The idea is so their kids will be older and have an edge on other students. They could be physically bigger to be more developed athletes (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on Canadian Hockey players). They could be more advanced in the classroom. They could eventually be the first to drive at 16 to have a social edge. They could also be better leaders just for the fact of being older. It seems to be an issue affecting boys more than girls but nevertheless it is happening to both. I envision a Tiger Mom’s saliva dripping from its mouth at the thought of this.

There are plenty of negatives to this like being bored in the classroom, have behavioral issues, trouble relating to the younger students, etc. Yes, it is confusing for the kids.

But this is not about the kids. 

Photo Credit: Premus

Brooke and I have two wonderful, unique, and imperfect girls. Our oldest daughter will be starting a Pre-K class next year so this issue hits home as we observe what other parents do for their kids. Brooke and I could technically hold back our daughter a year from Kindergarten and start her at 6 1/2.  Yes, 6 1/2, which is crazy to us. Despite being the youngest in her class, so far she has every ability to keep up with the older kids. There are many instances of younger kids need to be held back, which is understandable and shows how each situation is unique.

The idea of redshirting students reminds me of my experience dealing with some of my friends’ parents at a young age. When I was even eight years old, I knew that these parents were pushing my friends at every sport. They verbally abused them, practically broke out a whip to keep them practicing, rarely praised them, etc. It was disgusting and if they were smart enough to start their kids earlier in school, they would have (maybe they did). But most of my friends who were pushed around so hard by their parents were stressed, unhappy, and eventually ended up in serious therapy (or should have). I am thankful for my parents were not pushy but encouraging in that process and ultimately helped me to be successful in the things I was most passionate about in those years.

Why do parents do this?

There are three reasons:

  1. Envy: They see other parents’  kids “succeeding” early in life. They see it as necessary to make sure their kids do the same or better. It is pure envy.
  2. Fear: God forbid their kids would not be the best in something or not succeed. They feel the need to “protect” their kids because they fear failure.
  3. Pride: Even parents want to feel significant. Perhaps it is through their child’s success? Perhaps they are trying to make up for some issue in their own life and forcing it on their own kids? But pride is at the root of all of this.
All of this points to a redshirt life. We all are susceptible to this lie.

The redshirt life is about safety, control, and lack of adventure.

Brooke and I have discovered as parents how easy it can be to be caught in this trap. The idea of redshirting our kids is a reminder that Brooke and I need to give our kids up to God. We want to be great stewards with the gifts God has given us, especially our kids. But ultimately this all is a reminder that we need to give up control. God reminded me this week through 2 Timothy 1:7 (King James),

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

There will be many more times we will encounter issues like this. May we all be in prayer for our kids and to also ask God to reveal our own hearts in the process. The verse above is about trusting God, thinking with the good mind he gave us and to always act in love for our children.

It is comforting to know where we’re going.  It’s comforting to have clarity.  It’s comforting to know that there are signs out there to guide us.

Before becoming a Christian, I always knew there were signs out there telling me what to do.  Things like this would happen:

  • That must be a sign the girl likes me (or not like me).
  • That must be a sign that my golf round is supposed to turn around since my errant show hit the tree and bounced back into the fairway.
  • That must be a sign that I got a C in Chemistry so maybe I’m not supposed to be a doctor.

It didn’t take me long in life to recognize that there are no coincidences.  Is that rational?  Not really, right?  It takes faith to recognize that there is probably something bigger behind something that is simply deemed a coincidence.  But sometimes God gives us crystal clear signs and if we aren’t paying close attention, they will simply fade into the being part life’s daily happenings.

In the movie Signs (2002), this issue is dealt with directly. Some signs were given to the main characters years in advance. But none of them made sense until the characters were fully aware that they had a purpose at the present moment.  The characters may have missed them but they paid close attention and when the time was right, it all became clear on the meaning.

One of the main characters played by Mel Gibson, Graham Hess, asks his brother Merrill,

See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

This past year I feel like the signs have been very clear.  I have worked in publishing for the past 6 years and never felt so bombarded with the message of “become a better father to your daughters” than this year.  My two girls are 2 and 3 respectively and I know this is the time to develop and grow with them.  The signs looked like this in 2011.

This past father’s day, I worked on a book called Daddy Dates by Greg Wright.  It is a personal story of Greg Wright learning how to raise four daughters but also offers very practical ways on fun “Daddy Dates.”

Before leaving Thomas Nelson, I was able to work on initial planning a very practical and helpful father’s book called All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill. I am eager to see it have a strong impact on dads when it releases in May, 2012.

The first day of my new job at The A Group, I discovered that I would be working on some pieces of curriculum for the bestselling book,  Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, PhD.

God apparently wants to use a megaphone this year to tell me that I need to focus on being a better father. Who doesn’t want to become a better father (or a mother)?  But for me I really needed this “push” to be intentional in developing.  I could have gone about my days and completely missed this.  This next year and beyond I’ll update you on this journey of learning, listening, praying, and engaging with my daughters.

Be intentional about praying for God to show you signs.  The signs may be subtle hints and feel like whispers from God.  Pray for God to bring you clarity and take steps to understanding what these things mean.  Pray for patience as these signs may be most helpful years down the road when need them most.

What about you?

Do you feel like you are being shown signs in your life?  

What are these signs telling you? 

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.

The Circus Rollercoaster

January 28, 2011 — 8 Comments

A great friend from college called me this week.  We talk from time to time and he brought up how much life has changed since we lived in a house together in college.  We’ve each had difference paths with ups and downs.  He’s single and been trying to figure out his “vocation” at the moment.  I filled him in on how my wife and our two kids were doing.  Our family had recently been to the circus when it came through town.

If you haven’t been to the circus before then you should go just to see the amount of stressed out parents.  Yes, my wife and I were two of them.  Despite the chaos, it was so much fun. We smiled.  We laughed.  We ate snow cones out of animal-shaped cups.  We felt a little queasy.  The kids wanted to be held.  They ran in circles while we chased.  We were exhausted but what an unforgetable experience.

Our time at the circus reminded me of the film, Parenthood directed by Ron Howard and starred Steve Martin.  Pay close attention to this short exchange.

I think of that scene often because I relate so much to Steve Martin’s character.  I react. I freak out. I over-analyze.  I can be loud.  I blame others. I even run away like a Monty Python and the Holy Grail character.

In life we are not guaranteed perfection.  We strive to achieve some height we cannot attain here on earth.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013 photo credit

“Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must first deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

I’ve always been challenged by Jesus’ calling for us in life because ultimately he does not promise us an easy life but one filled with many challenges.  Ultimately there is “hope” by following him even when I feel the emotions of the circus or a rollercoaster.

As I thought about the circus and watched the rollercoaster scene again, they have become reminders…

-To lighten up.

-To laugh more.

-Keep going back to the circus and ride a rollercoaster

-That ultimately in life we will be fine.

Life is a Circus-Rollercoaster. It feels cliché but it’s true.

Enjoy the ride.

I’ve double-bag caddied for 36 holes on 100 degree days.

I’ve worked 70 hour weeks in the office.

I’ve mowed a dozen lawns in one day.

But, there is nothing that could have prepared me enough for the toughest job in the world…

Parenting.

These past few days my wife Brooke has been out of town thus entrusting our two and a half year old and 11 month old to my so called capable hands.  I’ll admit that I have had help as my mother is a saint for coming in town to help.  In these past two days we have looked at each other and said “How does Brooke do it?”

There have been moments I have been proud of this weekend.  There has also been times that I’ve had to ask forgiveness of my mother by stressing out and taking things out on her.  I have to do that often to my wife as well so my poor mom is taking it for the team.  Hey even Clark Griswold got to lose it here and there in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

I can only come up with one conclusion.

It is time to lighten up and enjoy this process.

I thoroughly love my kids and the being a dad no matter how hard it can be sometimes.  This weekend we’ve gone to the pool twice, taken fun walks with our dog Winston, ran around the yard, made up a small inflated pool on our deck, created art, listened to music, ran around the mall, and yes I confess we even watched a little of the PGA Championships and a St. Louis Cardinals game.  This is just part of the dad life I suppose and I’m still getting used to it.

I’d propose an end to trying to do this parenting thing alone.  Even if you are divorced raising children, you are still not alone. The earlier we admit that we can’t do it all and all of it perfectly, the better off we will be.  The more we rely on friends, family, and God to take care of us and give us patience, creativity, and forgiveness, the more fun we will have. I am ready.

If you are single reading this or are married without kids just watch and observe the parents out there.  Learn from their mistakes, learn from their successes. Parents can’t imagine life without kids, it’s an adventure.

Both kids are taking naps as I write this by the way.  Why am I not napping?  Yep, because there is always something to do.

I’d love to hear some of your parenting stories and lessons.  How do you get through the hardest days?

PS  If you need a good piece of entertainment as a married couple with kids, watch Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Last but not least if you didn’t catch the “The Dad Life” video, you’ll love this.